Hoarding is a behaviour where individuals save and amass large amounts of items, often ones wherein others see no value or purpose. Being a collector is not the same as hoarding. Hoarders struggle with getting rid of possessions and they store things beyond reasonable standards, eventually inhibiting the ability to live or work in a space in a healthy way. There are available therapeutic treatments for hoarding disorder, but sufferers may not seek help because the problem seems like a bad habit that simply needs breaking. Hoarding has also become entertainment fodder on reality television which could contribute to it not being taken seriously. If you have a hoarder in your life, there are a few things you can do to help them and their situation.
First, encourage them to seek treatment. Your loved one could be suffering from associated stress, anxiety, and depression, plus the living conditions hoarding creates can cause health and safety concerns. It’s not as simple as helping the person get rid of things they don’t need: hoarders suffer great distress over discarding these items. For more information on cognitive behavioural therapy and hoarding, please see this information outlined by The Mayo Clinic.
Once your loved one is set-up and receiving the proper professional help, offering assistance with clean-up can be a big help. Be sure to clear the degree of assistance, and at what point in the treatment to offer it, with his or her therapist. If the situation is a health risk, hire professionals to safely remove any materials that could be toxic, i.e., mold, infestations, bacteria, etc., and sanitize the spaces. In a more moderate scenario, get rid of trash and recyclables out of the way first.
Some materials that might cause extra stress to get rid of and that are common for many people to hold onto – even non-hoarders – is documents, papers, old electronic devices, and other items that contain personal information. To ease the anxiety of letting these things go plus the fear of potential identity theft, hire a local document destruction company to securely shred, crush, and recycle them. They can come to you with a mobile shredding truck and containers where visual verification can take place and guaranteed. Be sure to hire professionals like Absolute Destruction & Recycling Corp. who are certified by the National Association for Information Destruction.
Depending on the nature of the amassed items, they can be sold or donated. The financial benefits and positive feelings associated with helping others could be a part of the recovery process. Talk about the charities to which your loved one would like to give and emphasize the importance and kindness coming from this gesture. Different feelings will be associated with the purging method chosen – throwing away, recycling, selling, or donating. Your family member’s or friend’s therapist will be instrumental in this choice as well. Be sure to never sell or donate old electronics or storage devices, because even if you think they’ve been wiped, the data can be recovered. Absolute destruction is the safest choice.
There is help for hoarding disorder and your assistance can be important and instrumental. Hire professionals for proper disposal and clean-up, and seek the advice and collaboration of a registered therapist or psychologist before attempting to remedy the situation.